Spotlight on Lower School Compacts: Setting Up Student Success

In Shipley’s Lower School, we build the foundation for a lifetime love of learning and help students develop the aptitude for it starting in early childhood. Teachers encourage and foster excellence, helping students to master essential skills in communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking. We want our students to succeed, but balance the desire for achievement with an emphasis on individual and collective well-being. The learning environment is just as critical to student success as a good teacher—and goes beyond the physical space to include the emotional and social fabric of our community.
That’s why every class in Shipley’s Lower School (from PreK through Grade 5) develops a Compact for Creating a Positive and Productive Classroom. The formula is simple: Teachers and students collaborate to brainstorm a set of guidelines that define what they will do to show that other people matter and what they will do so everyone can grow as learners.
The Compact is a living document that students and teachers return to on a regular basis—to revisit when people need reminders, and to evaluate for changes as needs and strengths evolve over the course of a school year. First grade teacher Trish Giaccio believes that when students have a clear understanding of guidelines and expectations, they are able to perform better. Having a sense of ownership in defining those guidelines, she says, makes them even more meaningful for students.
Creating a good learning environment is critical to academic success. “I think if kids are feeling good about themselves as people and as learners, everything just sort of spills over into the classroom,” explains Giaccio. Fellow first grade teacher Brooke Donovan agrees, adding, “Having a good relationship with the people you’re spending six-plus hours with in a day is just as important—and sometimes more important—than the academics that you're learning.”
Head of Lower School Tim Lightman sees a value for students beyond the classroom, too. “The compacts are a vehicle to help children experientially understand what it means to be part of a productive community – that everyone has responsibilities and everyone is accountable – and that this learning ultimately will be meaningful both in collaborative professional environments and within the various communities children will participate in as adults,” he says.
The compacts support Shipley’s mission to inspire in each student a compassionate participation in the world and are a vehicle to supporting students’ individual and collective well-being, which we strive for above everything else.
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.